4 U.S. Cities Compete to House Guantánamo Prisoners

Monday, November 16, 2009
Thomson Correctional Center (photo: Quad-City Times)

Republican criticism of the Obama administration’s plan to relocate Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons is falling on deaf ears in communities hurting for jobs. From Montana to Illinois, cities are vying for the chance to use empty or underutilized prisons for housing suspected terrorists because it would mean hundreds and even thousands of new jobs for struggling local economies.

In Thomson, IL, both local and state officials are trying to sell a new, barely-used correctional facility to the federal government so it can take in 100 Guantánamo detainees from Cuba. Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, both Democrats, say the conversion of the Thomson Correctional Center to federal use would create 3,000 new jobs for rural northwestern Illinois, where unemployment tops 10%.
But the fact that next year is an election year has turned the issue into a partisan one, with GOP candidates for Congress and governor blasting Democratic incumbents for trying to import terrorists into the state.
Supporters of Thomson also have to deal with competition from other towns hungry for new employment. In Marion, the longtime federal prison is being pushed by officials as another possible home for Guantánamo prisoners, and the federal super-max facility in Florence, Colorado, home already to 30 convicted terrorists, is also a candidate. Meanwhile, officials in Hardin, MT, are urging Washington to consider their brand new, empty correctional facility when it comes time to shutter the U.S. naval prison in Cuba.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Officials Discuss Plans for Gitmo Inmates in Ill. (by Deanna Bellandi, Associated Press)
Jobs Trump Terrorism Fears for Thomson Residents (by Matt Williams, GateHouse News Service)
Ill. City Would Welcome Terror Detainees (by Jim Suhr, Associated Press)


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